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Taking steps to wind power growth

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Steve Isirk is a dairy farmer, a former county commissioner in western Kansas -- and a big supporter of renewable energy and wind farms.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Steve Isirk is a dairy farmer, a former county commissioner in western Kansas -- and a big supporter of renewable energy and wind farms.

Near Garden City, Kan., he says, most landowners embrace the idea that utilities will pay thousands of dollars a year to place wind turbines on their properties.

The future of producing electricity is blowing in the wind. A growing coalition of utilities, landowners and businesses is hard at work promoting and building more wind farms, especially in the Midwest.

Most residents will continue to rely on coal-fired plants to produce the majority of their electricity for many years to come.

Meanwhile, work should proceed to dramatically boost the amount of electricity produced by wind. How can that happen?

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First, Congress should pass a national renewable electricity standard. A government mandate would encourage private investment and confidence in a more stable future for renewable electric power.

Second, states and utilities must work together to significantly improve the nation's transmission grid.

A national standard should spur more jobs in wind-rich states, while it further diversifies the production of energy around the country. Less reliance on heavily polluting coal is necessary.

One responsible plan backed by the Wind Energy Association is for federal regulators to develop a fair way to spread construction costs to ratepayers of all utilities that would benefit from the new lines.

"Wind is a mainstream technology today," says Julie Clendenin of the American Wind Energy Association.

While that is certainly correct, this nation still must be more aggressive as it taps into a clean and growing source of energy.

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